Edwards recovers in time

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RUGBY LEAGUE Not for the first time, Shaun Edwards has given Wigan a late but timely boost by declaring himself fit for a big match in which he previously believed he would have no hope of participating.

Edwards tore a hamstring playing against Castleford in the semi-final of the Regal Trophy and he was initially worried about missing the rest of the season. Now, a fortnight later, he is poised to play in the final at the Alfred McAlpine Stadium in Huddersfield, although his coach, Graeme West, is still sufficiently cautious about his fitness to keep his young understudy, Craig Murdock, on standby.

"He came in saying it [the injury] was a lot better and came through a fitness test like everyone else," West said. "It is just a matter now of seeing whether any reaction sets in. If it does, Craig will come straight into the side. He had a very confident game at Doncaster in midweek and I would have no qualms about using him."

If Edwards maintains his remarkable record of playing in all of Wigan's major finals since 1984, the one regular missing from their side will be Andy Farrell, whose ankle ligament injury persists. Mick Cassidy plays in the second row in his place.

That match at Doncaster on Tuesday was a calculated risk, but everyone came through safely. Martin Offiah and Neil Cowie are fit after being rested and Kelvin Skerrett is clear to resume after suspension.

Warrington will search in vain for signs of leg-weariness from opponents who put in a full stint in midweek. The long-odds second favourites have concerns of their own. Apart from the lingering doubts over Greg Mackey, they hope to have Allan Bateman playing his first match after a hamstring injury and Francis Maloney and Gary Tees returning after shorter absences.

More than any individual uncertainties, though, the doubt must be whether they have the collective strength to deny the resilient Wigan their first trophy of the season. For all the craft of Mackey and Kelly Shelford, Warrington depend excessively on theability of Jonathan Davies to weave some magic.

"We are not making any special plans for him," West insisted, but he knows that if Warrington are to emulate Castleford last year by beating Wigan in a Regal Trophy final, it will almost inevitably be Davies' kicking game and elusive, instinctive runningat the heart of it.

Warrington: Davies; Forster, Harris, Bateman, Myler; Maloney, Mackey; Tees, Barlow, McGuire, Cullen, Sanderson, Shelford.

Substitutes: Darbyshire, Bennett.

Wigan: Paul; Robinson, Tuigamala, Connolly, Offiah; Botica, Edwards; Skerrett, Hall, Cowie, Betts, Cassidy, Clarke. Substitutes: Atcheson, O'Connor.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).